Martin Pratt is the Director of Children’s Services for the London Borough of Camden and a Director of Camden Learning. His podcast is an introduction to the Education in Mind website. He talks about the unique challenges our children are facing at this time and how Camden are working in partnership with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust to provide psychological support for the education workforce.
Hello, I’m Martin Pratt. I’m the Director of Children’s Services for the London Borough of Camden and a Director of Camden Learning. I was delighted to be able to do this initial podcast to welcome a new initiative which is a joint piece of work between Camden schools through Camden Learning and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. The Tavistock have a remarkable and well-earned international reputation both for the quality of practice but also for innovation. We have a long history of close working relationships, of developing systemic approaches together and of thinking about how different disciplines can work together to improve the lives of and outcomes for Camden’s children. During this most difficult of times when we are all struggling to work out how to undertake our usual roles, but also how to respond both to the needs of each other as colleagues, to the families that we are working with, and most of all to the borough’s children. We have had to think long and hard about how we might mobilise the best we have in terms of both academic knowledge, clinical wisdom and practice experience.
I was very pleased when the Chief Executive of the Tavistock, Paul Jenkins, approached me to see if Camden schools would be interested in collaborating in Education in Mind, a completely new approach to thinking about how we create a professional response, both to the stresses and demands that are placed on the education workforce, to teachers and leaders and other staff and disciplines working in Camden schools, and how we respond to the challenges of children in this unprecedented time. Children who for the most part have been asked not come to school and are facing the challenges and difficulties that are associated with that level of disruption. Children who, I feel, are in a sense paying the price for the common good, for reducing the transmission and the risk to older generations but, those whose education is being disrupted, who’s social networks and supports are being are removed and who have many challenges and, in a borough like Camden, challenges which include many living in cramped and overcrowded accommodation and with little chance for respite.
I’m concerned that and we may find ourselves in a situation where the ordinary response of our children to the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in may lead to a surge in mental health difficulties and emotional challenges and we as professionals have a response to think about that and see how we can do fast learning and transmit information and share best practice look at dilemmas in the way that we respond together to ensure that those ordinary responses from our children receive an appropriate level of support and that as new challenges emerge we think about those things together. I’m concerned that we may find her generation children where the principal response to the challenges that they face is to seek a kind of clinical response rather than to use their supportive network in order to deliver and the sort of support that is likely to improve matters.
The most trusted relationships that our many young people have are actually in school and we want to be able to support the workforce who are supporting our young people. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how, as a community of practice educators, clinicians, social workers and others, we come together to respond to the Education in Mind project. We will be hearing information back from weekly check-ins which is a kind of rolling survey from staff where specific questions are asked and where we can share need and we can understand the impact that we think the current crisis has been having on our children and then developing themes and as we hear those themes coming back thinking about where and how as different organisations and different professions we mobilise the best knowledge and experience in order to support these young people.
This is a huge challenge but I think it’s one that we can rise to and I’m absolutely certain that, if this can be done anywhere, it can be done in Camden, it can be done where the model of education support is one based on collaboration and high standards, one where the clinical support available through the Tavistock is world-class and one where the council and other children services have a long tradition of working collectively and collaboratively as part of a network.
So, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, I’m very much looking forward to hearing your views and once again thank you for taking the time to listen to this first podcast. Please take care and we will make sure that together we can really resolve the many issues that our young people are facing.